Financial Planning and Your Dental Education: Part 1

December 11, 2006

Dental education is expensive. Very expensive. Depending on which school you choose to attend, your residency status and how you choose to live while in school, you could be looking at more money than you could find in the trunk of Tony Soprano’s Cadillac.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA) more than 91% of dental students are going to graduate with debt accrued during their time in school. Nationally the average debt that these students will accumulate is around $141,000.00 That’s a lot of beans.

But here’s a real number: $248,716.52. That’s the debt that my roommate, a 4th year dental student, has racked up during those 4 delightful years. Did he do this by living it up? No. In fact, he lives pretty reasonably, and he’s only paying half the rent! How did he get so much debt? It’s expensive! He pays out of state tuition, so he pays close to $44,000.00 per year to the school. That’s compared to my tuition which is around $24K. Add in a modest apartment for 4 years, groceries, utilities, gasoline, car insurance, clothing, a handful of dinners out on the town and a case of aspirin for headaches and you’re over $200K! Plus he has the added expense this year of interviewing for specialty programs. Let’s see, 8-10 interviews means 8-10 plane tickets, 16-20 nights in a hotel, 20-30 cab rides, another case of aspirin…there’s another few thousand. All this time with no income!

In the coming installments of this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the issues facing dental students and how they can plan for their future.

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Mailing Your Transcripts To AADSAS

December 10, 2006

During the application process you will need a copy of your transcript in order to enter your grade information into the AADSAS application.

AADSAS will also request that you send them official transcripts from every university that you have attended. I suggest that, if it is possible, you should send those transcripts through a service that gives you some tracking information so that you will know that they were delivered to the AADSAS.

This may or may not be possible, depending on the institution you attend(ed). Official transcripts are usually not released to the student, but rather sent directly to the requestor, taking away any possibility that the student could tamper with the information in the transcript. Stop by the office where you request transcripts and ask if you can supply them with a prepaid envelope that is addressed to the AADSAS. Most offices will be happy to do this, particularly if you let them know of the importance of being early when applying for dental school.

If they are willing to send them in your envelope, the extra 15 dollars spent for a FedEx delivery will give you some peace of mind.

What’s The Difference Between a D.M.D. and a D.D.S.?

December 9, 2006

Often a question of potential candidates for dental school is the uncertainty between the two designations given to dental degrees in the United States, the D.D.S. and the D.M.D.

In practice there is no difference to these two degrees. The education received and the abilities to practice are exactly the same. The only difference in the two designations is their history.

In 1840 the World’s very first dental school was established by Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris. That school was the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. Upon doing so, they create the first degree that can be held by a dentist, the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) Degree. The school opened on November 3rd and had a class of 5 students. That school later merged with the Maryland School of Dentistry.

27 years after the founding of the Baltimore school, Harvard University founded the Harvard University Dental School in 1867. This is the first university affiliated dental institution. Harvard only granted degrees in Latin, and the phrase Doctor of Dental Surgery did
not translate very well into Latin, so the university created the “Dentariae Medicinae Doctorae” or DMD degree.

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Mailing Your Letters of Recommendation (LOR’s)

December 7, 2006

Your letters of recommendation (LOR’s) are just one part of the equation with regard to getting yourself accepted to a dental program.

The Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) requests that you download their letter of recommendation matching form and have your individual letters or pre-professional committee’s letter sent to AADSAS. With a growing number of applicants in the candidate pool each year, having your application completed and ready to be forwarded to your designated schools from the AADSAS centralized service is an increasing concern.

A lot of people will complain about AADSAS. It can be sometimes confusing, it may not always be perfectly compatible with your transcript for recording your academic progress, and they can seem to be uninterested and uncaring when you contact them with your problems. So why not take one of the variables out of the hands of AADSAS?

What do I mean? Well, it’s simple. AADSAS will forward your file to your designated schools, even if you have not sent your letters of recommendation (or letter if from a committee) and they do nat have them on file. When you do send your letters to them (with the LOR matching forms) it can take days, even weeks to get those forwarded to the schools you are applying to, and that is time that can’t be wasted. First offers for interviews, and subsequently first offers of admissions, are definitely related to the timeliness of your application.

You should also consider sending your letters directly to the school. Most schools have no problem accepting the letters directly from their respective authors. In fact, I never had any letters sent from my professors to AADSAS. They all sent their letters directly to the schools to which I was applying.

When I made my requests to each of the people who were kind enough to write a letter of recommendation for my potential to be a good dental student, I included a stamped and pre-addressed envelope to each of the schools. They simply printed the number of copies they needed and sent them to the school’s admissions office.

The cost is negligible when compared to the cost of waiting an additional year because your application was in a little later than “the other guy”. For example, if you were applying to 11 schools, the cost for postage would be $12.87 (a first class stamp is currently 39 cents), and a box of business sized envelopes should not cost more than a couple of dollars. A small price to pay for a little security.

You should also be aware of when you are sending your letters of recommendation. You should asking for letters of recommendation for dental school before the application cycle begins, however do not have authors send their letters of recommendation to AADSAS before May 15th (generally the beginning of the new cycle). If they are received by AADSAS before May 15th they may be considered a part of the previous cycle and never make it to your designated schools.

How Important Is My Undergraduate School?

December 7, 2006

Potential students often wonder about the things that will be weighed when measuring their suitability for a dental education. There are so many questions that it is difficult to answer them all. Is my DAT score high enough? Do I have the G.P.A. I need? How important is the essay? How important are my letters of recommendation?

Let’s discuss the importance of your undergraduate school on your admission to Dental School. The most accurate answer for this question is, unfortunately, mostly unknown.

There is no doubt that some members of an admissions committee will place some weight on where you gained your undergraduate degree, either good or bad. The good news is that in most cases it is a committee, and not an individual, who will make the decision as to your fitness for pursuing a dental education.

That is perhaps one of the reasons that Dental Schools use the DAT to “level the playing field” for students from diverse backgrounds.

If you have a good G.P.A. from an accredited college, and you have a competitive DAT score you will not likely be punished for attending an unknown university. It is unlikely that having a pedigree from a more well known institution of higher learning will give you the boost you need if you are applying with less than average statistics. There may be some degree of gain from attending such an institution if your scores are already competitive and you are being measured against a potential student with similar scores.

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Should I Retake The DAT?

December 4, 2006

This question is often found in the forums. To be quite honest, it’s not a question that can be easily answered.

There is no limit to the number of times that you can take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test). When you go to a testing center and take the DAT you must designate at least one school for the test score to whom the test score will be released. After you finish the exam and receive your score, the most recent 4 scores will be sent to the schools that you designate.

Because of this it is important to realize that the schools will see the last 4 exams, so be prepared to answer questions during your interview if you retake the exam and end up with a lower score than you had on a previous test.

I think you must first take an objective look at your scores and ask yourself if your scores are competitive with scores for the schools that you are applying. Remember, when you look at a schools numbers and see that their DAT academic average is 18.5, that means that some students were higher, some were lower, but in general if you have that score you will be competitive with other students who are applying to that University. Well, at least with respect to DAT score.

The next thing to think about is what have you done to improve your chances of receiving a higher score? There are a number of study guides for the DAT, including the Kaplan DAT with CD-ROM, 2007-2008 Edition. While Kaplan is probably the most well known, there are a number of other very good study guides. Barron’s How to Prepare for the Dental Admissions Test is also quite good. The item I found to be absolutely indespensible for my preparation for the DAT was TopScore Pro for the DAT software from Scholarware. It contained 3 complete exams that are in the exact format of the DAT.

My best advice is for you to call the school that you are interested in and ask to speak to someone in admissions regarding your score. Many students are reluctant to call the institutions that they are planning to attend. Don’t be! Each school is the best source for information with regard to that school.

The DAT, Dental Admissions Test

December 2, 2006

If you’re planning on getting into a career in dentistry, you’re going to need to take the American Dental Association (ADA) Dental Admissions Test (DAT). You should take the exam during the Spring of your junior year (undergraduate) up to the Fall of your Senior year. However, with the increasing competitiveness of Dental School admission and the importance on applying early it is recommended that you take it as soon as possible.

The DAT is a standardized test that is designed to measure general academic ability, science background, and perceptual ability. The test consists of 4 sections; Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Perceptual Ablity.

From this writer’s perspective, the singe greatest tool I had when preparing to take the DAT was a copy of the Dental Admission Test (DAT) Computerized Sample Tests and Guide, TopScore Pro for the DAT. This software is identical to the testing situation that you will have when you take the computerized DAT at one of the authorized testing centers. It contained 3 complete practice tests that are in the exact format of the actual test. The only difference I noticed from the actual DAT and this software was the software included a timer at the top of the screen to let you know how your pace was compared to where you should be. For example, if you were on question 17 of the reading comp test it would tell you that you should be on question 15, letting you know that you are ahead of the pace.

My actual DAT scores were almost identical to my practice scores. I found the Dental Admission Test (DAT) Computerized Sample Tests and Guide, TopScore Pro for the DAT to be an outstanding tool.

As of August 2008 the cost to take the exam is $190.00

When you take the exam you will have 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete the four tests.

Survey of Natural Sciences – 90 Minutes
Biology – 40 Questions
General Chemistry – 30 questions
Organic Chemistry – 30 Questions

Perceptual Ability – 60 Minutes
Angle Discrimination – 15 Questions
Hole Punching – 15 Questions
Cubes – 15 Questions
Paper Folding – 15 Questions
Aperture Matching – 15 Questions
Orthographic Projections – 15 Questions

Break – 15 Minutes

Reading Comprehension – 50 Minutes
Three Passages – 50 Questions

Quantitative Reasoning – 45 Minutes
Applied Mathematics Problems:
Algebra, Trigonometry, Math Reasoning (word problems) – 40 Questions

DAT Scores
Now that the DAT is administered in testing centers on computers, you will get your DAT Score as soon as you finish the exam.

Your raw score on each of the eight subsections will be converted to a scaled score from 1 to 30, with 30 being a perfect score, 15 being the median score and representing the 40-52 percentile.

Each subsection will have it’s own score, but the scores will be combined in areas and you will get an Academic Average (AA) score. This is generally the score that you will see listed when checking your competitiveness for a particular school.

For more Information visit the ADA Website

Getting Great Letters of Recommendation

December 2, 2006

Letters of recommendation are critical to being accepted to one of the 56 accredited dental schools in the United States. Before you start asking for these letters, take a moment to help improve the quality of your letters before they are ever written.

You have the ability to influence the quality of the letters written for you by providing your writers with some simple yet useful information that will help them when preparing the letters.

First, start with a letter that asks for the recommendation and tells them why you need the recommendation. In that letter you should also remind the person of how you met or how long you have known one another, what interactions and experiences you have had together and your thoughts about those interactions. Talk about your qualities; reliability, maturity, judgement, communication skills, ability, confidence, motivation, etc. If you talk of these things in your letter, they are likely to end up in the writer’s letter as well.

After writing the letter, gather some useful information about yourself for the writer. Include a copy of your transcripts (unofficial transcripts are fine for this) and perhaps a resume or CV that contains information regarding your participation in extracurricular groups, academic societies, social groups, etc.

Providing these things will aid the writer in creating a better recommendation, and will make the task of writing the letter less troublesome. A professor may not remember every detail about every student, and these documents will help them to provide an accurate picture of you as a student.

Make sure to give them written instructions on what to do with the letters once they are written. Be sure that they have the proper address for mailing the letters to the AADSAS or even better, have them mail the letters directly to the schools to which you are applying.

December 1st

December 1, 2006

The first day of December. If you are familiar with the application process, then you know the significance of this date. December first is the day when most dental schools make their first offers to applicants for a place in their upcoming academic class.

One of the biggest questions in the forums and chat rooms on this date is “Did you hear anything from XYZ school?”

There’s an incredible amount of panic on this day, because applicants see postings from other eager candidates who have already received their notice. Anxiety increases as the hours go by.

But you shouldn’t panic. The time of day and delivery method can vary greatly from one school to another. In fact, they can even vary from within the same school! This is the date when the schools mail the invitations, but in the internet age, many will provide the notification via electronic mail. But they may send out their acceptance letters early in the day, prompting many who are waiting to hear to assume they are out of the running once they see that everyone has already received an email with the good news. However, that same school may send out other notices later in the day for students who are “wait listed”. Other schools may reverse this trend, sending out rejection letters early, giving some the false sense that they are going to get the invitation to attend, not thinking that they may be wait listed later in the day as well.

For specific information on applying for and attending a US or Canadian Dental School, get the Adea Official Guide to Dental Schools

How Many Dental Schools Are There In The United States?

November 30, 2006

There are 57 accredited Dental Schools in the United States that offer either the DDS or DMD degree. Here they are, listed by State:

University of Alabama School of Dentistry at UAB Website

A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health Website
Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine Website

Loma Linda University School of Dentistry Website
University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry Website
University of Southern California School of Dentistry Website
University of California at San Francisco School of Dentistry Website
University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry Website

University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center Website

University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine Website

District of Columbia
Howard University College of Dentistry Website

Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine Website
University of Florida College of Dentistry Website

Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry Website

University of Iowa College of Dentistry Website

Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine Website
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry Website

Indiana University School of Dentistry Website

University of Kentucky College of Dentistry Website
University of Louisville School of Dentistry Website

Louisiana State University School of Dentistry Website

Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine Website
Harvard University School of Dental Medicine Website
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine Website

University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery Website

University of Michigan School of Dentistry Website
University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry Website

University of Minnesota School of Dentistry Website

University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry Website

University of Mississippi School of Dentistry Website

North Carolina
University of North Carolina School of Dentistry Website

University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry Website
Creighton University School of Dentistry Website

New Jersey
University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey New Jersey Dental School Website

University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine Website

New York
State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine Website
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Website
New York University College of Dentistry Website
State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine Website

Case Western Reserve Univ. School of Dental Medicine Website
Ohio State University College of Dentistry Website

University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry Website

Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry Website

Temple University School of Dentistry Website
University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine Website
University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Website

Puerto Rico
University of Puerto Rico School of Dentistry Website

South Carolina
Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine Website

University of Tennessee College of Dentistry Website
Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry Website

Baylor College of Dentistry Component of Texas A & M Health Sci Ctr Website
Univ. of Texas Hlth Science Cnt-Houston Dental Branch Website
University of Texas Hlth Science Cnt-San Antonio Dental School Website

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry Website

University of Washington-Health Sciences School of Dentistry Website

Marquette University School of Dentistry Website

West Virginia
West Virginia University School of Dentistry Website